August 1, 2014, 5:09 PM

Bon-Ton Stores hires a Belk executive as its next CEO

Kathryn Bufano will take the helm at the regional department store chain retailer later this month.

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The Bon-Ton Stores Inc. has hired Kathryn Bufano to be its next president and CEO. Bufano joins the regional department store chain from Belk Inc., the operator of department stores across the South, where she has held executive-level roles since 2008.

Bufano replaces Brendan Hoffman, who announced in March that he would not be seeking to renew his contract with the retailer when it expires in February 2015. Hoffman will step aside Aug. 25 when Bufano starts, but will continue to advise on the transition, the company says.

For the last four years Bufano was president and chief merchandising officer at Belk. Prior to that job she was Belk’s president of merchandising and marketing. She also has held executive posts with Vanity Shops, Sears Roebuck and Co., The Dress Barn and Lord & Taylor. Belk says it has promoted David Zant, its vice president and general merchandising manager of men’s, home and kids since 2008, into the job Bufano vacated.

Both regional department store chains have been investing in digital commerce and have seen their web sales grow substantially. Bon-Ton, which operates 272 stores in the Midwest and Northeastern United States, generated $132.96 million in sales online last year, up 51.8% from $87.58 million in 2012. It is No. 191 in the 2014 Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide. Belk operates 301 stores in the South and Southeastern United States and generated $192.6 million on the web last year, up 42.5% from $135.2 million in 2012. Both companies have emphasized how they are working to fuse their web and store channels with digital features in stores and in-store pickup for web orders.

Bon-Ton executives, commenting on Bufano’s hire, cite her department store experience. “Her years of experience in the department store industry will allow her to refine and drive the strategic growth initiatives we have put in place over the last several years,” says Tim Grumbacher, Bon-Ton’s chairman of the board and chief strategic officer.

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